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I like to think of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® as the Michael Jordan of credit cards because it’s the best thing that ever happened to my wallet.
This top-notch travel rewards card is known for its unparalleled rewards and perks, which pack so much value that you can come out ahead after factoring in the steep $550 annual fee. When I add the yearly $300 travel credit to all the points I earn from everyday spending, I get far more value out of the card than I spend on the annual fee each year.
Let’s dive into a few reasons why the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the first card I turn to for my travel needs — and why I consider it the best rewards card on the planet.
- Sign-up bonus: Worth at least $750 in travel rewards
- Travel credit: $300 a year can help you forget about the annual fee
- Keep earning: More ways to earn and redeem points
- Travel perks: The cherry on top
- Who this card is good for
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® features a sign-up bonus worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Here’s how it breaks down.
- Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points
- Spending requirement: $4,000 on purchases
- How long you have to earn it: 3 months from account opening
Your points are worth 1.5 cents each — but only when you redeem directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel. Redeeming your sign-up bonus points this way nets you a value of $750. That’s already pretty good, but you might get a better value if you redeem through a Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partner. For example, if you redeem through United MileagePlus®, your points could be worth an estimated 1.71 cents each, based on Credit Karma’s point valuations as of winter 2020. So transferring all your sign-up bonus points to United could land you with a value of $855!
Believe it or not, Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s sign-up bonus used to be even bigger. I applied for the card shortly after it launched and earned 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases during the first three months after opening the account. We may never see a 100,000-point offer again, but the sign-up bonus is only part of what makes this card special.
I mentioned this point above, but it bears repeating: Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s whopping $550 annual fee can be largely offset by its generous $300 annual travel credit. You can use this credit each card anniversary year to pay for flights, hotels, car rentals and more.
So yes, the $550 annual fee can be a hard pill to swallow — but you can almost think of it as an investment in your next vacation.
The travel credit is easy to use
What sets this travel credit apart is how effortless it is to use. The money is automatically credited to your account when you make an eligible travel purchase. You don’t have to activate it or apply for reimbursement and then wait. You spend and then get the credit — it’s as easy as that.
Here are some of the travel purchases it covers.
- Car rentals
- Toll bridges
Chase Sapphire Reserve® isn’t the only premium rewards card to offer a travel credit. The Platinum Card® from American Express has several travel credits of its own, but they can be a lot trickier to use.
- $200 airline fee credit: You get $200 in airline credit a year, but you can only use it for one qualifying airline. And you can’t use it to pay for your ticket, or even for a first-class-seat upgrade.
- $200 annual Uber credit: $200 a year for Uber is a good deal, but you can’t use this one all at once. Instead, you’ll get $15 per month, with an additional $20 credit in December. If you don’t ride with Uber on a regular basis, you may not get much use out of this benefit.
With Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll earn three points for every $1 you spend on travel and at restaurants worldwide. This makes it a top-notch card for foodies who travel the world sampling local cuisines. Just note that the rewards rate for travel only kicks in after you earn your $300 annual travel credit. And you’ll earn a base rate of one point per $1 spent on all your purchases outside of travel and restaurants.
Remember, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable points you can earn — if you don’t mind putting in a little extra effort to figure out how you want to use those points. To get the absolute best value for your points though, always redeem them for travel, either by booking through the Chase portal or transferring points to partners. Don’t shortchange yourself by redeeming points for cash back, gift cards, or Apple or Amazon products.
On top of the travel credits and rewards rate, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a few travel perks that could make your trips more comfortable.
- Kick back with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. This gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges and restaurants around the world. Some airports have multiple Priority Pass locations. If there’s time before my flight, I like to visit as many as I can. Sometimes, I’ll even eat dinner at one Priority Pass lounge and then grab a drink at another.
- Breeze through airport security with Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. You’ll be reimbursed for the application fee when you apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. If you’re approved, this could help you save time at the airport and get to your gate faster.
- Don’t sleep on the card’s other travel perks. When my flight out of LaGuardia Airport was canceled, I used this card’s trip-delay coverage to get reimbursed for a Central Park hotel, comfortable transportation and a fancy dinner. You might get the opportunity to use it more often than you think. How many times have you been on a flight that was delayed or canceled? How many times has an airline lost your bags?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is geared toward frequent travelers. Given the high three-points-per-$1 dining rewards rate though, it’s also a solid choice for people who frequently find themselves in restaurants in their own hometown.
But before you sign up for this premium rewards card, be ready to commit to the high $550 annual fee and determine if you’ll end up saving money in the long run. To get the most benefit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you should plan to take advantage of the $300 travel credit, the application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and the Priority Pass Select membership.
And to get the best value for your rewards, you should also plan to redeem your points toward flights or hotel stays through Chase Ultimate Rewards or transfer partners.